Syrian forces spray bullets at protesters as observers fan out


Fri, Dec 30, 2011 - Page 1

Regime forces fired on protesters at a protest hub near Damascus and killed at least 11 people around Syria yesterday, even as peace monitors spread out across the country, activists said.

At least three demonstrators were killed and several others wounded in Douma, the protest center just north of the capital, when security forces sprayed protesters with bullets outside a mosque, a rights group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the shooting broke out as Arab League observers arrived at Douma’s city hall on the third day of a mission designed to halt a lethal government crackdown on dissent.

The monitors were also scheduled to visit flash points around Damascus, as well as the northern and central cities of Idlib and Hama and southern Daraa Province.

Daraa is the cradle of an unprecedented nine-month protest movement against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria with an iron fist for decades.

“A third civilian wounded by gunfire from the security forces has died of his injuries and there are many injured people in critical condition,” the Britain-based observatory said.

Gunfire rattled in Douma where “tens of thousands” of protesters rallied outside the Grand Mosque and regime forces opened fire on the demonstrators “as observers arrived at the city hall,” it said.

The observatory also reported that security forces shot dead three people in the Damascus suburbs of Aarbin and Kiswah, and two more people further north in Idlib Province, while three others died in the central city of Hama.

“Security forces are raiding a private hospital in Hama and are arresting the wounded,” it said.

Facebook activists are urging regime opponents to take to the streets across Syria today.

“On Friday, we will march to the squares of freedom, bare-chested,” Syria Revolution 2011 activists said.

The head of the observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, said protesters needed to make their voices heard to the monitors.

“The Arab League’s initiative is the only ray of light that we now see,” Abdel Rahman said. “The presence of the observers in Homs broke the barrier of fear.”